Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Today is election day...

...and, as I've told my kids many times, if the presidential election is my Super Bowl, then the midterms are my playoffs. (And you thought all I cared about was high school football.)

I'm expecting a late night tonight, but we may not know most of the results until tomorrow at the earliest. (Maybe I can be in bed at a reasonable hour after all.) Actually, I've read that due to probable runoffs in places like Louisiana and Georgia, and possible recounts elsewhere, we may not know all of the results for -- literally -- months. (But all the gurus, such as Sam Wang at Princeton, are forecasting a Republican takeover of the Senate, albeit narrow. The margin of victory is the only question remaining.)

Having said all that, I think one of the most intelligent things I've read about the election was in an opinion piece in the Times this morning. From "Your Very Predictable Vote" (my emphasis):

Most people aren’t ideologically pure, and most don’t derive their opinions from abstract ideologies and principles. People are more strongly influenced by the effects of policies on themselves, their families and their wider social networks. Their views, in short, are often based on self-interest.

To which I would add a couple of corollaries:

1. People vote for the candidate with whom they most closely identify personally. (Why else would George W. Bush have had any support as late as 2008?)

And, most importantly (I think),

2. If people (and their friends and neighbors) are doing well financially, i. e., they're getting raises and/or bonuses and their houses and 401ks are increasing in value, then they'll think the incumbent is doing a fine job and vote for his reelection. (See: Clinton, Bill; and Reagan, Ronald.) If not, the guy's obviously a bum. (See: Bush, George H. W.; and Carter, Jimmy.) That's why, I think, President Obama is so unpopular right now: median wealth and incomes are still below pre-recession levels. Forget everything else you've heard; that's the reason.

So I'm not expecting any miracles tonight or, for that matter, in the foreseeable future. The Republicans are going to take back the Senate, add to their majority in the House and split the competitive races for governor. Zzzz. Washington will still be in gridlock, everyone will still blame the president for everything -- from beheadings in the Middle East to viruses in west Africa -- and the Super Bowl 2016 elections will get underway in earnest.

I can't wait.

1 comment:

Everyday Normal Guy said...

(just getting around to reading some of my blogs 4 weeks later and with 4 weeks of hindsight...)

One of the biggest things I think about voters is they need a "how will this affect me", but more importantly "how will this affect me today". It's not that abstract ideas are lost on voters, it's just that most voters that aren't political junkies need to be reminded why they need to vote (how many campaign commercials focused only on ISIS and ebola in the US; immediate concerns of Nov 4th, but there hasn't been a single incident of US ebola since the election). So, voters need to be reminded of today.

Secondly, I think that there is a psychological divide between liberal leaning voters and conservative leaning voters. Conservatives, by self proclamation, think every aspect of the government is bad so if the government blocks progress, that is actually doing something for conservative leaning voters. On the other hand, liberals tend to think of government as either the solution or the referee, giving us 40 hour work weeks, PTO, Medicare, minimum wage, etc. Therefore, if liberals want to rally their base, they need to do something and not just talk about doing something.

Once again with that hindsight, it is painfully obvious that Democrats forgot these finer points about the voter; you need to focus on current issues (and actually, even 4 weeks later, I couldn't tell you what most Democrats stood for except that they also don't like Obama) and that you actually need to do something not just talk about doing something.

I also think the 38% voter turn drastically helped the Republicans, so let's see if 2016 turns out a little better.